Heading into last night’s game, veteran catcher Matt Wieters was on something of a roll at the plate, going 18 for 56 (.321 AVG) with three doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs, six walks, and eight runs scored over the last 17 games, with hits in 12 of those 17. He’d reached base safely in 14 of the 17 as well.
With an RBI single in the third inning of what ended up an 8-7 walk-off win last night, the Washington Nationals’ backstop had hits in 13 of 18, and had reached base in 15 of 18.
In 25 games out of the All-Star Break, Wieters, who missed 50 games while recovering from a hamstring injury which required surgery between early May and early July, has now gone 23 for 84 (.274 AVG). So what’s working?
“He’s able to use his legs and that’s key,” Davey Martinez told reporters before the start of the second of three with the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.
“With his hamstring injury, it’s tough for him and now that he’s getting a little healthier, he’s able to stay down and use his legs a little bit better.”
Wieters said it was pitch recognition too, now that he’s built up at bats after missing time.
“Definitely recognizing pitches earlier which is big,” he explained.
“Any time a hitter is struggling it’s probably because they’re not quite recognizing the pitch out of the hand. We take so many swings and have so many things, that you have to try to make it a reactionary part of the swing. Really since Spring Training I’ve been excited with the work that me and [Hitting Coach Kevin Long] have been doing with my swing, but more than anything lately it’s just about being able to trust that swing will be there. It’s just about reacting to it once you see the ball.”
Wieters, who is playing out the second year of what ended up being a 2-year/$21M deal with the Nationals, is one of many pending free agents.
The Nats, who reportedly tried to upgrade their catching this winter, and during the season, will likely go another direction this offseason, but the veteran catcher is doing what he can down the stretch to show teams that he still has something to offer.
In a day game after a night game, Wieters is getting the day off, with Spencer Kieboom behind the plate this afternoon catching Max Scherzer in the series finale with the Phillies.